Covington cemented his No. 1 welterweight ranking by dominating rival Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272, but with champion Kamaru Usman already holding two recent wins over him, it could be a while before Covington gets a third crack.
Sonnen, who has served as a mentor for Covington (17-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) over the years, said Covington’s win over Masvidal should amount to something meaningful.
“I’m so proud of that guy,” Sonnen said in an interview with Helen Yee. “He gives the fans what they tuned in for from pillar to post. He never stops until they fade to black and roll the credits. Guys have got done fighting and wanted to hug it out and be friends and Colby, ‘That’s not what I sold you tickets on.’ And Colby stays in it. He’s a great guy, Colby’s never in trouble out of the octagon, he grew up (up) the road from my house, I’ve known him since he was 11 years old, the guy’s never been in trouble.
“He’s a consummate professional. He’s chasing his dream. He just got one step closer. He just took the ‘BMF’ champion and beat him up for 25 minutes. That has to mean something to somebody. I don’t understand how he can be the only No. 1 contender in the sport, he’s recognized as the No. 1 contender, he’s ranked No. 1, and he doesn’t get to cash that ticket and fight for the belt.”
With Usman projected to face Leon Edwards next and UFC president Dana White declaring Gilbert Burns vs. Khamzat Chimaev a No. 1 contender fight, Sonnen thinks Covington moving up to middleweight to challenge champion Israel Adesanya makes perfect sense, an idea that Covington recently floated.
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Both White and Adesanya (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) laughed off the idea, but Sonnen thinks Adesanya needs to fight someone who can talk the talk and walk the walk just like him, and that man is Covington.
“Colby made a suggestion: ‘I’m gonna take that golden ticket, (and) I’m gonna go to 185 pounds.’ I think he should be allowed to do it,” Sonnen said. “You cannot be a No. 1 contender and not get a title shot. It’s not right.”
He continued, “I want to see Colby Covington fighting Izzy Adesanya, and quite frankly Izzy Adesanya needs somebody that’s gonna meet him halfway. I think that Adesanya is also a master. I think he’s a master entertainer on the way to the ring. What he does and before he leaves the microphone behind. He needs somebody that can match him. Robert Whittaker left him hanging, didn’t want to meet him half way. (Jared) Cannonier is not gonna meet him halfway. (Adesanya and Covington) need each other right now. They can form a partnership, and they can go do some business.”